– The scandal of al-Karm village in Minya
The recent scandalous attack against the Copts in the village of al-Karm (sometimes pronounced al-Karam) in Abu-Qurqas, Minya, some 250km south of Cairo, represents a full-fledged ignominy. It involves politicians, administrators, and security officials; and it mars religion, ethics, and values especially noble-mindedness and valour. Details of the events can be found on [http://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/sectarian/pope-tawadros-rule-of-law-must-prevail/16531/]
Since we appear never to learn from our failings, the Karm village scandal is déjà-vu where religion, ethics, values, and official behaviour are concerned. But this time the perpetrators fell to an unprecedented low when they desecrated the honour of an elderly woman by stripping her naked and beating her up. And why shouldn’t they have done that? Hadn’t they been left to do as they pleased whenever they attacked Copts under the pretext that they were defending the Muslim religion, dignity and honour? How many times did officials look on as extremists violated the law on claims that they were enforcing justice by inflicting collective punishment on the Copts? Criminals were tolerated and their crimes played down as officials sponsored non-official traditional ‘conciliation sessions’ between them and their victims; both the prestige of the State and the rule of law were waived as the law of the jungle took hold.
I am astounded at the sick, corrupt climate prevailing in our country, which foregoes both reason and law. The heinous crime at al-Karm has been explained off as response to the [taboo] affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman. Even though this allegation was unsubstantiated and later proved untrue, the mere ‘explanation’ appeared to justify the crime. Were the affair even a fact, it could be no justification for replacing the rule of law with the law of the jungle, or for allowing the mob to inflict collective punishment on the Copts. Even though officials were alerted to the threats against the Copts in al-Karm, they chose to discount them and disregard the warnings. The mob thus waged their attack for two hours while no official attempt was made to stop it. It was not the first time the officials were caught red handed as they failed to take adequate action; they attempted to cover up by downplaying the events, offering excuses for the criminals, and calling for ‘conciliation’ between the attackers and their victims. The dignity of the State and the rule of law were thrown to the wind.
As though this were not enough, civil society organisations and State institutions rushed to visit al-Karm, its victims and their stricken homes, in an attempt to ‘heal the rift’ between the village Muslims and Copts. They inundated us with honeyed rhetoric that extolled conciliation, coexistence, unity of the nation’s two elements [Muslims and Copts] and the call for self-restraint to abort conspiracies that aim to bring the nation down. What nonsense this all is! And what does it all have to do with a disgraceful terrorist crime the perpetrators of which ought to be caught, brought to justice and penalised according to the law? The relationship between Muslims and Copts in Egypt is in no need of such propaganda. The Coptic victims themselves said it was their Muslim neighbours who finally rescued them from the hands of the mob, testifying thus to the time-honoured bond between Egypt’s Muslims and Copts. A quote that went viral on social media said: “Instead of asking the Copts to exercise self restraint, the State should exercise law enforcement and bring the criminals to justice.”
The presidency issued a statement in the wake of al-Karm incident instructing that the criminals should be caught and justice served. It gave the governor one month to repair the houses and property destroyed, looted and burned, with the aid of the armed forces. This in itself should put an end to the usual procrastination in compensating the victims and the sponsoring of mock conciliation sessions. In addition, the presidency statement included a very significant clause that ought to be given due attention: “The President instructs to hold accountable those who ignited these clashes and refer them to the competent judicial authorities.” I hope we all realise that those who ignited these incidents were not only the criminals and the mob who actually committed the crime, but also the officials who failed to take action to prevent or tackle it. This has been proved by a preliminary report of the events, conducted by the House of Representatives, according to which a number of MPs called for the formation of a fact-finding committee to investigate the incident. The MPs also called on the House Speaker to question the Interior Minister on the matter, especially given that al-Karm Copts had reported to the village police the threats they received before the attack, and sought protection. Yet the police failed to protect them; instead, they looked on as the mean crime took place, without bothering to intervene.
Very obviously, those responsible for the disgraceful incident at al-Karm are not alone the men with the actual crime on their hands; with them are those officials who allowed the ugly events to take place and did nothing. These should be taken to account.
5 June 2016